Simone Krüsi is the Office Manager/Secretary General in the Secretariat (National Committee) of the Freethinkers Association of Switzerland. She studied German language and literature, ethnology, European history, and Balkan Studies at Universities of Freiburg i. Ue., Zurich and Vienna. She worked for the “Tagesschau” or a news programme of the Swiss broadcasting company SRF.
Here we talk about her life, work, and views.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What are some of the facets of family and personal background important for personal growth over time?
Simone Krüsi: If I talk about my own background, I’ve always read a lot since I was a kid. Especially literature. That helped and helps me to understand life better and better. Salman Rushdie, whom we recently awarded this year’s Swiss Freethinker Award, said at our event: “In an age of lies – which I think is the age we live in – paradoxically, it may be a valuable thing to have literature around, trying desperately to tell the truth.” With these words, he echoed my exact sentiments.
Jacobsen: If we look at some of the community events for freethinkers one Switzerland, what are they? How are these impacted the size and the mandate of the Freethinkers Association of Switzerland?
Krüsi: The Freethinkers are organized in eleven regional sections under the national umbrella organization, the Freethinkers Association of Switzerland (FAoS). The FAoS and its regional sections regularly organize talks, panels, cultural events, and the like. The World Humanist Day (21st June) and the Human Rights Day (10th December) form an inherent part of our calendar. Once every two years we host the science festival Denkfest that extends over several days. In addition, several of our sections host social meet-ups, usually on a monthly basis, and organize talks and debates. Of course, we are always happy when non-members visit our events and thus become aware of us and as a consequence perhaps join or subscribe to our magazine.
Jacobsen: How does the Freethinkers Association of Switzerland impact the political and social scene of Switzerland?
Krüsi: Our goal is clear: to influence in political decision-making. Specifically, we participate in consultations on legislative changes that affect our core concerns. Occasionally, we launch referendums, if a change in law runs counter to the aims of a secular state. Last year we passed a resolution calling for the abolition of the ban on blasphemy, which still exists in Switzerland.
As far as the social scene is concerned, we want to show people that you can also be happy and joyful without God. We get involved in ethical-philosophical debates. And we also offer very concrete things: We train humanistic celebrants who organize funerals, weddings or naming ceremonies for newborns. In doing so, the focus is not on gods, but always on the human being.
Jacobsen: As the General Manager of the Freethinkers Association of Switzerland, what tasks and responsibilities come with the position?
Krüsi: I take care of a lot of things. I have an open ear and a helping hand for everyone – for members as well as for outsiders. These are often media representatives, or even people who come to us with specific questions, for example about leaving the church. I am also active as an editor and help with the organization of our numerous events. I want to be there for everyone – which is not always easy because I only work part-time. Fortunately, however, we can take additional part-timers on board in 2020 and hopefully make our presence even more visible.
Jacobsen: What are some activities of community for young people? What are some activities of community for old people?
Krüsi: Every summer we organize Camp Quest, a scientific-humanistic summer camp for children and youths between nine and 15 years of age. We try to encourage them to think for themselves in a playful way. The regular meetings of the individual sections are certainly interesting for older people. In addition, we are in the process of introducing a humanistic counselling as an alternative to confessional pastoral care. It will not be tailored specifically to the elderly, but we certainly want to service them, for example in old people’s homes or hospitals.
Jacobsen: Who are currently opposed to the work of freethinkers in Switzerland? Why them? How are they acting this opposition to Freethought?
Krüsi: “Opposition” may not be the right term to use. But our national parliament, for example, is lagging behind social developments in certain aspects: a good quarter of the Swiss population is non-religious – but there are not many politicians who are decidedly committed to secular concerns. That being said, things have improved a little recently: we had national elections this autumn and the parliament has become younger, which in this case also means that it has become more secular.
Also at the cantonal level (Switzerland consists of 26 cantons and has a federal structure), there are some worrying tendencies: The Canton of Zurich (the most populous canton in Switzerland), for example, intends to finance education for imams. And the Government is also examining a bill, which would allow the State to enter contractual agreements with currently non-recognized religious communities. We are observing this process very carefully and are prepared to bring the bill to the polls through a referendum if it runs counter to the aims of a secular state.
Jacobsen: How is Freethought different in Switzerland than in other European countries? Why is this the case?
Krüsi: We see ourselves as a part of the international humanist community. We, therefore, share many interests and aims with our sister organizations in the European Humanist Federation and Humanists International. One thing, however, differs from country to country: the degree of overlap of church and state. Depending on local conditions, humanist organizations strive for different changes to the status quo. The Humanistische Verband in Germany aims to become state-recognized as a life stance organization across the country. Switzerland also has state-recognized and «free-floating» faith groups. We, however, strive for a clear separation of church and religious entities, i. e. our position is that faith groups should not be granted any privileges that are out of reach for other civil organizations.
Jacobsen: What are your hopes for the community of freethinkers moving forward?
Krüsi: To some degree, our aim is to become redundant as a lobby group for the nonreligious – this could be the case once state and churches have become properly disentangled, ethics has replaced religious education in public schools, and social care is no longer outsourced to religious organizations. But for the time being, we’re not exactly out of work. And even in a more secular Switzerland, we’d probably continue to organize talks, debates, science festivals, summer camps and the like.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Simone.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du Québec, Atheist Freethinkers, Central Ontario Humanist Association, Comox Valley Humanists, Grey Bruce Humanists, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Hamilton Humanists, Humanist Association of London, Humanist Association of Ottawa, Humanist Association of Toronto, Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, Ontario Humanist Society, Secular Connextions Seculaire, Secular Humanists in Calgary, Society of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph), Thunder Bay Humanists, Toronto Oasis, Victoria Secular Humanist Association.
Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists,American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.
Image Credit: Simone Kruesi/Freethinkers Association of Switzerland.